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Age well

Nutrition as we age

You don’t need to look in the mirror to know that we change as we get older. The good news is that we can take small, positive steps every day to make the most of our wiser years.

Since our nutritional needs change over time, it’s important to know how to adjust our food choices, serving sizes and meal plans so that we fuel our bodies right. Here’s how:

Changing needs, changing tastes

One important change is that we need fewer calories as we get older. But we need approximately the same amount of nutrients — and even more of certain ones.

At the same time, many people take less enjoyment from eating than they used to. As children move away and social circles become closer knit, dining may no longer be the social event it once was. Perhaps foods just don’t taste the same any more.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can make adjustments and adapt to your new lifestyle and have fun doing it. Just remember that whatever your situation, it’s important to be more selective about food choices.

Know how much you need

Try to eat the recommended number of servings in the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide. If you’re over 50, that means a little less veggies/fruit and grains, and more milk products (which contain nutrients for healthy bones) than when you were younger:

  Women Men
Vegetables and Fruit 7 servings 7 servings
Grain Products 6 servings 7 servings
Milk and Alternatives 3 servings 3 servings
Meat and Alternatives 2 servings 3 servings

Your diet should also include about 30-45 mL (2-3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day.

A little extra D

Vitamin D helps maintain bone strength. In addition to getting the recommended servings of milk and alternatives, everyone over 50 should take a vitamin D supplement.

Look for a supplement with 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D.

Watch the unwanted extras

Look for ways to reduce sugar, salt and fat:

  • Try to prepare home-cooked meals.
  • Use herbs, garlic, onions, and other seasonings for taste.
  • Try to include different colours and textures in each meal.
  • Use lower-fat cooking methods like grilling, steaming, broiling, baking and roasting instead of frying.
Eat small meals, often

Eating smaller meals and small snacks throughout the day helps boost your metabolism and gives you energy, as well as providing daily nutrients.

  • Start each day with breakfast and try to eat it soon after you get up.
  • Choose snack foods from the food groups.
  • Try to include at least two food groups in a snack and at least three food groups in a meal.
Drink enough fluids

Remember to drink plenty of fluids for optimum health, even if you don't feel thirsty.

  • Water, tea, coffee, soup and juice all count as fluids; and certain fruits like watermelons and grapefruits provide a good dose of liquids as you eat them
  • Try to avoid sweetened drinks like pop and fruit drinks, which add calories.
Downsize your pantry

If you're shopping for a smaller household now, you may need some new shopping and cooking strategies.

  • Buy smaller quantities of fresh foods.
  • Look for single-serving packs of meat, pre-cut fruit, veggies and salad, or plan to use a food in more than one meal.
  • Store freezable food in smaller servings in the freezer and grab what you need, when you need it.

Looking for recipes? Check out our recipes for delicious and nutritious meals and snacks.

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